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Senate makes bipartisan strides toward drug patents

Susan collins close up
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and a bipartisan group of her colleagues are wading very gently into the debate about drug companies' patent protections, specifically the "thickets" of patents that keep competitors at bay for complex biologic drugs.

Driving the news: Collins introduced a bill yesterday that would ensure that biologics' patents are included on a list the FDA already maintains.

  • Brand-name drugmakers would also have a harder time winning the inevitable lawsuits over any new patents they file after a biosimilar competitor has filed for FDA approval.

Reality check: This is not necessarily a very muscular bill.

  • Drugmakers are already pretty upfront about their patent protections; a different kind of public listing for those patents would not be a disincentive to keep filing them.

Yes, but: Any congressional interest in drug patents — and any tacit agreement that pharma companies game that system — opens a door that the industry's lobbyists are working very hard to keep closed.

Go deeper: Big Pharma's GOP firewall is weakening